#102: Frauds And Visionaries — Bethany McLean

Bethany McLean is an investigative journalist and contributing editor for Vanity Fair.

Show notes

Selected links

Topics discussed

  • How did Bethany become a journalist? 4:13
  • How did Enron come to be Enron? 6:30
  • How did Bethany see through Enron when most others were beguiled by it? 8:33
  • What was the reaction to Bethany’s original article expressing skepticism about Enron? 11:35
  • Why was Enron an example of ‘legal fraud’? 13:34
  • How to spot the “dogs” dressed up as “ducks”. 16:20
  • What were the ultimate causes of Enron’s collapse? 19:43
  • How did so many smart people at Enron become so corrupted? 30:06
  • Bethany’s book recommendations. 32:42
  • The fine line between frauds and visionaries. 34:56
  • Self-deception. 41:56
  • If Elizabeth Holmes succeeded, would the end have justified her means? 45:23
  • Elon Musk. 46:54
  • The truth about fracking. 55:14
  • How does Bethany stay organised as a journalist? 57:17
  • How does Bethany put questions to her sources? 58:36
  • Balancing accuracy with narrative flair. 59:35
  • Which factors help Bethany decide which facts to include in a story and which to omit from it? 1:05:40
  • How to construct an effective narrative. 1:11:46
  • What business model could scale up investigative journalism? 1:17:54
  • How does democracy survive the eroding of journalism’s traditional business model? 1:24:04


October 14, 2020 12:06 am

Hey Joe around the 34 minute area when you’re discussing Bethany’s book recommendations, she mentions a book about statistics deceiving us but can’t remember the name, later in the episode you mention the ending of the undoing project, which she says she is part way through. Safe to say that’s the same book?

October 16, 2020 5:59 am

What an extraordinary Lady, one smart cookie. I’ve never heard of her , but this was enlightening. cheers and well done.

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